The Texas Rangers are sure to have some competition for bullpen spots this season. Could Wei-Chieh Huang snag one of those spots?
Right at the trade deadline last season, the Texas Rangers sent lefty reliever Jake Diekman to the Arizona Diamondbacks and part of the return was reliever and pitching prospect, Wei-Chieh Huang. Huang, 25, is a Taiwanese pitcher who spent 2018 between High-A and Double-A partially with the Diamondbacks organization and partially with the Rangers.
In High-A ball, Huang made 19 appearances out of the bullpen throwing 31.1 innings and striking out an impressive 46 while posting a 2.59 ERA. He got the promotion to the D-Backs Double-A club and made 10 appearances including 2 starts. A WHIP of 1.000 and a strikeout rate over one per inning earned him some credit in prospect evaluators eyes.
Huang did struggle a bit once he arrived in Texas with Double-A Frisco. He made 9 appearances for the RoughRiders and while he maintained a good strikeout rate, he struggled to miss bats allowing over a hit per inning. Despite this, he still features a good two-pitch combo with his fastball and effective offspeed that can cause problems for hitters in inning long outings.
Expectations for 2019
Wei-Chieh Huang was added to the 40-man roster this offseason and likely will get some work in Spring Training. With his ability, he’ll get a shot to earn a spot in the Rangers bullpen but he’ll have stiff competition. New additions Kyle Bird and Jordan Romano likely will get some opportunities as will highly ranked prospect CD Pelham. Jose Leclerc obviously will be returning as the closer and Jesse Chavez has been brought back this year and he’ll get a slot in relief.
Huang’s best opportunity to earn his role will be in Spring Training when all eyes will be on him as well as a number of other pitching prospects that the Rangers are likely to have in Surprise. If he can’t crack the roster out of Spring Training, I’d imagine he starts the year in Frisco rather than Triple-A Nashville.
This allows Texas to keep him close so he can be brought up if they decide to make that move. More and more we see players jump straight from Double-A to the Majors without a stint in Triple-A so Texas won’t feel obligated to have him stop in Nashville first.
I’d fully expect to see Huang in Arlington at some point this season though.